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deceit

by Dale Zukowski

Where do you look to find your way
when everything is dark and bleak.

How do you find the strength to stay
when you can’t even speak.

How do you continue to care
when you cannot feel your heartbeat.

Why do you still try to share
amid the lies and deceit.

Does karma patiently wait
with a smile upon its face.

To collect those who show that trait,
or do those who hurt, vanish without a trace ?

Dale Zukowski is a Navy veteran who served in a number of posts with the Combat Camera Unit based out of San Diego. He currently works for General Motors. 

Baghdad 2015

by Amy Sexauer

Today
Under the swaying fronds of lofty palm trees
I think about all the eyes that have closed for the last time
Under these dusty drifting branches
There are birds in Baghdad
And tiny flowers pink orange and yellow
And I wonder if the rain that raised these flowers
Has washed away the blood from stained stones
Everything breaks
And everyone dies
But how long does it take the spirit of war to fade from a place

I ride in the back of a heavy SUV
In my ironed shirt and slacks
Coffee cup
Silvano sunglasses
And I pass
Block by block
It stills smells like violence
Thick in the air
Between gray walled homes
And mundane traffic accidents
A million different scenes play out
Hallucinations dancing atop my vision
The shiny teeth of young men as they stand in front of flags
For the only photo I will every know them by
What would their mothers think
To see this place now
Their friends are still here
They keep coming back because they can never really leave
But their pain and their anger
Infects the air
This land cant move on and cant let go
Because people wont forgive
And people wont heal

Captain Amy Sexauer is a writer and poet still serving on active duty in the Special Operations community. She commissioned from the United States Military Academy in 2009, and has deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Captain Jack’s

By Matthew Burrell

Isom stood six foot two with arctic blue eyes. He carried seven point six two millimeter non regulation high caliber rounds. Regulation was five five six but regulation had a habit of pinholing ribcages without settling on vital organs.

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Cleansing

by Scott Beard

Thunder clapped loud as the black Z-71 lumbered up the incline and into to the rusty shed. Bill let out a sigh as Powell put it in park. They crawled out of the cab, bodies aching from a long day of fishing down on the Cache La Poudre River. The mercury struggled to hike to sixty and gray clouds had thwarted the sun’s attack on the foothills of the Sawatch Range.

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The Arkansas

by Cornelius Coleman II

Green Country

His return to the individualized and lonesome trappings of private civilian life had become a pendulum of anchorless abstractions: a changed man’s thoughts wandering aimlessly through an alien environment. Sergeant Josiah Betancourt’s homecoming from Operation Enduring Freedom bore no resemblance to the ticker-tape deluges of welcome home parades or the iconic still-life photography that immortalized Lucky Strike puffing American G.I.s’ embracing starry-eyed pin-up girls. These romantic celluloid mirages, for him, always captured that generation’s collective need to simply appreciate survival as the zenith of all joyful moments; the precursor of all great things large and small. Now, Josiah foraged for these sentiments through the thick brambles and thorn-laced briars of combat related stress However, his subsequent findings could only be described as disillusion as he looked directly at the final deposit for a veteran’s service – the confounding disintegration of a once-unvarnished faith.

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The Last Army

by Will Sweger

 

I eased along the jagged surface of the rock and peered along a crevice trying not to show too much of myself. The vantage point that we had climbed all morning for was worth it. Small scrubby trees clung to the sides of the mountains as they dropped into the narrow corral of a valley. At the center, just offset from the dry creek bed that carved the place, was the walled compound that was our target. Its mud and stone walls rose above the dusty ground around it as if the place had been hewn from the earth itself. Like most Afghan country enclaves, it was arranged with a high outer wall and several inner buildings huddled around a courtyard. I strained to see the entrance of the valley, to see if the cav troopers were set up there with the cordon. Standard procedure was simply to roll up the valley and take the compound, but I had argued with command to let me take infantry through the high pass in order to cut off the escape of anyone who tried to run.

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Aeromedical

by David McOwen

I have broken people in my head.

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Rabbit’s Foot

by Brian Kerg

John Butler didn’t think he’d be asked to make such an unfair promise.

He didn’t know how to feel when he managed to keep it.

He was terrified when he was asked to make it again.

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Quittin’ Time

by Shannon Coghlan Reiss

Dad’s impending retirement had worried me for years. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” my brother Bobby asked. I figured he’d sit around drinking beer and watching television all day. Work keeps people alive. Everyone knew that. Recently, my friends’ parents started retiring, and one by one, they got sick.

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Dover

by Renee Gherity

families of the fallen
there’s a center for you
in a coffee-tabled room
with tranquil
landscaped paintings
and leather couches

and there’s a room for children
with pillowed floors
and walls with chalkboard paint
to draw their feelings

while you wait
for the transfer case

Renee Gherity’s husband is a retired Navy captain. Her poem “War Waltz, Uncounted,” about PTSD, was published in The Innisfree Journal, 21.